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Dan D Zonker
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Dan Z Zonker
By Dan Zezena

One spring day I was fly-fishing for steelhead with the normal flies that are sold on the market for steelhead. I noticed many guys having luck with minnows, shiners, and bait patterns. So I decided to tie the closest fly to them I could. I had some research to do.

I took a trip down to the Rocky River and grabbed three large buckets of water and some rocks and vegetation from the riverbed. I took my samples home and set up an aquararium.

I did my best to re-create an area where I saw a school of small baitfish hanging out before I collected the samples. I let the tank sit for a couple of hours and returned to the river to catch some small baitfish. I borrowed a net and in no time I had 30 or so baitfish ready for testing. I returned home and placed the fish in the recreated riverbed and let them sit for two hours.

The tank was in the sun and had a small amount of shade in it also. I set up a position somewhat under and to the side of the tank. I readied my digital camera for pictures. What I was trying to capture was the color of the under belly of the baitfish as they scatter, jump, and swim for their life. I used a Jack Dempsy as the predator fish. He was mean and aggressive but not big enough to eat the fish. I had a friend put him into the tank while I steadied my position. As the Jack chased the baitfish I clicked off about ten pictures of the fish swimming in the sunlight away from the big Jack. After the test all samples and fish were returned to the Rocky

I needed some connections for the next part. I have a friend that works for a home improvement store, (which I will not name so he can keep his job). This store had a scanning device, which can scan any piece of material and compare colors for a match. It is used for people looking to match paint color but what the hell why not use it for fly-fishing. I took the pictures of the baitfish in and a bunch of material I bought from a local fly shop. It took us about a half-hour to recreate the color of the under body of the baitfish with the store bought materials. I took this combination and tied it into a bait pattern.

I use a beadhead or weighted hourglass eyes to recreate the moving motion. That is how the Dan Z Zonker was born and has not stopped catching fish to this day. The fly can be used on any fish that will chase a bait pattern. I have received e-mail feedback from Florida (Bass fisherman) to Canada ( Salmon and Steelhead) on how well this fly works.


PLEASE NOTE: I will go over in detail how to tie in each piece of material and the reason why the material is used. I tie this with a Tail Color: Brown, White, Yellow, Olive and Black. Body Color: Black, White, Dark Green, Brown and Orange.

Thread:  Black or Dark Green size 6.

Hook:  Hook size depends on the fish you are after. A size 6 3x long works well for steelhead, Mustad 9672 size 6 works well also. You can use a size 6-12 for these flies when fishing for Steelhead. If you are using the Zonkers for Largemouth Bass Size 4 3x to 4x long works great with a weed guard. Smallmouth will chase the same size you have for steelhead. If you are fishing for Crappie and Bluegill Size 12-14 will work fine.

Tail:  Marabou. Color depends on conditions (Brown, White, Yellow, Olive and Black.)

Body:  Lite Bright: There are 5 different colors I use to make body. The colors are based on the research explained above:

    Holographic Silver - (A must for this fly).

    Minnow Blue - Seperate the Blue from the Silver (This step is needed for the weave process).

    Pearl -White.

    Pearl - green.

    Pearl - Blue.

    Please Note: I do not use KRYSTAL FLASH. It is a good type of material, but for this fly it does not make the swimming motion you need for the re-creation of the baitfish body.

Hackle:  Your choice. I base it on conditions (white, yellow, orange, brown are some I use).

Head:  No head is needed but I have found the fish take more of them with a Beadhead or hourglass eyes.

Beadhead:  Caddis Bead is a nice bead (black is the color I use) size 3/16" with a size #6 hook..

Neck:  The neck is made of the thread you use to tie the rest of the fly.

Tying Steps:

1. Place bead onto hook then place hook into vise. Starting at the bead tie in thread. Work your thread down the hook rearward to the shank stopping directly opposite the point.

2. When tying a Streamer Pattern Marabou is used for the tail because of its natural movement. I also use marabou but added a layer underneath of Lite Brite for great color and to imitate baitfish swimming. Layer your Lite Brite in this fashion. I always use the lighter colors on the bottom and the darker blue color on the top. Starting from bottom to top:

- Holographic Silver 7 strands.

- Pearl blue 3 strands.

- Pearl green 2 strands.

- Silver from the Minnow blue-3 strands.

- Blue from the Minnow blue 4 strands.

This color combo is the one I came up with from my research, it is matched perfectly by a computer to a bait fish body. Next time you fish look at your fly under water and watch it glow as it swims and reflects light off the Lite Brite material. An eye catcher!

Tie this material onto the hook in the above order. Leave the strands of Lite Brite bright as long as your piece of Marabou which you will tie over the layers when you are complete.

3. Tie in the Marabou of your choice over the Lite Brite strands.

4. Tie in the hackle and leave it pulled back for later use.

5. This is the step where you will tie the body of the Zonker. The body is a woven body. It is somewhat like the body of a Bitch Creek Nymph fly. I did not know how the blue would show up on the pictures so I used black. Black is not used in the fly. Please use BLUE from the Minnow Blue Lite Brite which you have separated from the silver. Bring your thread up to the eye of the hook. Start the body by tying the blue material (shown in black ) down the near side of the hook, stop when it meets the Marabou. Then work the thread back up the hook to the eye.

6. The light color of the body is layered as follows:

- Holographic Silver 13 strands.

- Pearl blue 7 strands.

- Pearl green 4 strands.

- Silver from the Minnow blue-5 strands

Take this combination and tie it to the far side of the hook. Tie it all the way down the hook till it meets the Marabou. Then bring the thread up the hook to the bead.

7. This is the weaving process of the body. I will do my best to describe it to you. If you are familiar with the Bitch Creek Nymph it is the same process. (Or see the step-by-step instructions HERE). With your right hand wrap the light strands of lite brite over the top of the hook. With your left hand wrap the blue material over the light material on top of the hook, then under the hook stopping on the near side of the hook. Now wrap the light material over the dark material onto of the hook. You want to have the dark material on top and the light material weave into the bottom of the fly. The appearance of the fly is to have a light bottom and a blue top woven together. Continue down the hook to the beadhead tie off and trim excess. Please see the photos below.

8. Keep the thread near the bead head of the fly. With hackle pliers turn the hackle down the hook to form the body. Bring hackle all the way till it touches the beadhead and tie down. Make a couple turns with the hackle before you tie it off. Cut excess hackle. Make the neck of the Zonker by pulling the hackle back with your finger build the thread up to meet the bead head and work it down just a bit. It is up to you how long you want the neck. Remember the more body you have on the fly the more flash you'll have.

Before neck

Finished Fly

About the Dan Zezena:

This fly is killer when fish are active (Spring, Summer, and Fall) but it also seems to draw the fish out when they are sluggish. When they hit this fly you don't even have to set the hook. Steelhead hit it that hard. I also have caught Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass on this fly during the summer and late fall.

No matter if your an expert or a novice, I bet you'll get many days of good steelhead and bass fights on the water with this fly.

White Variation

Let me tell you about the name. I really didn't name it. I made the fly and started to hand it out on the river to people at popular steelhead sites I would meet. Sometimes other fishermen would see me catching fish when no one else was and they would ask what I was using. I would immediately hand them one to give it a try. After it began to circulate people started to mention it on steelhead websites. A guy who used it and knew my last name gave it the name Dan Z Zonker. I know it is not a Zonker type of fly, I guess it would fall under a streamer pattern. The Dan Z Zonker name stuck to the fly and that was that. I understand this fly does look close to a woolly bugger fly pattern. ~ Dan Zezena

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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